At the end of May 2017 I travelled to the stunning Cyclades Islands southeast of the Greek mainland in the Aegean Sea. We had been in Athens for a friend’s wedding and decided to extend our stay in order to explore some of the beautiful islands Greece has to offer. Conscious of not wanting to be constantly on the move, we settled for visiting two islands, Paros and Santorini.
Located in the southernmost part of Cyclades roughly half way between Athens and Crete, Santorini has become a popular destination with people enjoying its multicoloured cliffs topped by whitewashed buildings, stunning sunsets, dazzling panoramas and volcanic-sand beaches. But the island has a dramatic history that has shaped the rugged landscape as we know it today.
In the 16th century BC the island was circular and known as Strongili (the Round One). A violent volcanic eruption caused the entire centre of the island to collapse leaving a giant caldera (or crater). The sea rushed in to fill it, leaving only the present, crescent-shaped island above water. Santorini is still an active volcano, though the last big eruption occurred 3,600 years ago. Evidence of the island’s volcanic heartbeat can be seen all over the island with mysterious landscapes and beaches made up of black, red and white lava pebbles.
One of the most surreal beaches we visited during our time on Santorini was Vlychada Beach, located in the south of the island. Also known as the Moon Beach, it is famous for its moon-shaped landscape and large rock formations which have been naturally sculpted over time by the wind and sea. When we arrived the beach was deserted which seemed to add to the eeriness of the place. The waves were making a lovely sound as they gently crashed onto the dark volcanic sand and pebbles. I set up my gear close to the shoreline, hit record then left the recorder running and headed off down the beach for a walk.
There is no denying the natural beauty of Santorini and I would highly recommend visiting the island. We weren’t there in high season but Santorini hosts 1.5 million tourists annually and even outside of peak season there were moments when the place felt crowded. But it was also pretty easy to escape the crowds and we often found ourselves surrounded by stunning natural beauty, alone with the elements on this stunning volcanic island.